Trustees Vote to Offer Bowie Knife for Auction

The Bedford Free Public Library’s Bowie knife Image (c) JMcCT 2012, all rights reserved

By Dot Bergin

At their December 12 meeting, the Trustees of the Bedford Free Public Library voted to offer the library’s Bowie knife to Skinner, Inc., auctioneers and appraisers, for inclusion in their spring sale. The knife has been appraised by Skinner and authenticated by various knife collectors and specialists.  After Library Director Richard Callaghan researched the matter, the Trustees decided to deal with Skinner, as this house is noted for its expertise in auctions of Americana.

Disposition of the knife, donated to the Library by the late Charles Hume, a former Selectman and long-time civic figure, has been on and off the Trustees’ agenda for several years.  A flurry of activity occurred in December 2013, when the Library agreed to loan the knife to the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock for a special show in their knife gallery. After much deliberation and consultation with Town Administration and Counsel, the knife was transported to Arkansas and remained on exhibit for six months, until June of 2014 when it was returned to Bedford.

Hume and his wife donated the knife to the Library in 1972 and it was displayed for a number of years, along with a letter from the Hume family confirming its provenance.  During a Library renovation, for the security and preservation of the valuable weapon, the knife was removed to a safe location.

Bowie knives were first made in the early 1800s and are still being made today by skilled craftsmen who make reproductions and modernized versions.  As Library Director Richard Callaghan has often reminded the Trustees, there is no “back story” of how the Humes acquired the knife, nor that it “might have been” used by Davy Crockett – a claim impossible to verify.

As the knife played no part in the history of Bedford, the Trustees made the decision to sell. Lack of safe space to display the knife also factored into the decision.  The Trustees reasoned that proceeds from the sale could be used in ways to more directly benefit the Library.

In other news, Trustee Bob Batt-currently serving as Chair-announced he would not run for re-election in 2018.  Batt has served three terms on the Board. Michael Pulizzi told the Trustees that he intends to stand for reelection.

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